Ask Ambrose: Liturgical Color for Baptisms

Baptismal font

Q: For baptism on Pentecost does the liturgical color red take precedence over white? Thank you.

A: Since, according to the Book of Common Prayer, “Holy Baptism is appropriately administered within the Eucharist as the chief service on a Sunday or other feast,” red would be the color on Pentecost, matching the celebration of the Holy Eucharist on the Lord’s Day, and specifically, on the Day of Pentecost. Although the prayer book does not provide specifics on liturgical colors, the general principle is that, because baptisms are performed within the context of the Holy Eucharist, the liturgical color appropriate to a particular Eucharist is used for the liturgy (e.g., in Eastertide, white; in the Season after Pentecost, green; on a feast like Pentecost, red; etc.). Thus Holy Baptism on a “green Sunday” would entail green vestments, not white vestments. In other words, while white is a traditional baptismal color of sorts, it does not trump the liturgical color appropriate to Sunday or other feast days, as they have liturgical precedence. In reality, if the Additional Directions of the BCP (p. 312) are observed carefully, “Holy Baptism is especially appropriate at the Easter Vigil, on the Day of Pentecost, on All Saints’ Day or the Sunday after All Saints’ Day, and on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord (the First Sunday after the Epiphany),” all of which (except for Pentecost) have white as a liturgical color. So, more often than not, in actuality, the color used for Holy Baptisms will end up being white.